Socialist Worker

Military families get set for peace conference

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1976

Thousands of people demonstrated across the US on Wednesday of last week against Bush (Pic:

Thousands of people demonstrated across the US on Wednesday of last week against Bush (Pic:

The growth of the Military Families Against the War campaign in Britain is one sign of the growing pressure on Tony Blair over his part in the war on Iraq.

Representatives from family campaigns around the world will be coming together at the International Peace Conference in London on Saturday 10 December to share their experiences. This will be an extremely important conference for the global anti-war movement.

Cindy Sheehan’s camp outside George Bush’s ranch reinvigorated the anti-war movement in the US this summer. Cindy will be speaking at the International Peace Conference.

Dave Corrigan, a former member of the Territorial Army, told Socialist Worker, “I think the peace conference will be a wonderful opportunity for people to come together and share their stories.

“And I would encourage as many people as possible to come along.

“There is a lot of rubbish said about the current situation in Iraq, that the fighting has ended. But just look at how many soldiers are still dying.

“The truth is that the Iraqi people do not want the troops there.

“I was called up in February 2003. I was a paramedic. I was there to work as a field ambulance commander, to save lives rather than take them.

“We were mainly dealing with injured Iraqis — children with limbs missing and severe burns. The things I saw haunt me to this day.

“I seriously injured my knee at Adaiya in southern Iraq. At first I was sent to a field hospital for treatment and I was treated very well. But then I was evacuated back to the RAF base in Luton. That’s when the trouble really began.

“The military doctor I saw just told me to go and see my GP. He didn’t even look at my knee. Then I was just left — no transport was arranged to take me home. I had to hitch a ride home.

“No one had contacted my wife to let her know that I’d been injured. She didn’t even know that I was back in the country until I asked her to pick me up from the town centre.

“When I went to see my GP he was disgusted at the treatment I’d received.

“I was lucky that he was ex-army himself and knew that the military had a responsibility to look after me.

“In the end there was a catalogue of mistakes made. Not only did the treatment for my knee keep getting delayed, but after the first operation the military doctor put me on a rehabilitation plan so that I could be sent back to Iraq.

“This plan caused me to injure both my knees. My doctor tells me now that I have the knee of a 65 year old and that I may need to have a full knee replacement.

“It tells you a lot when the army won’t even look after its own soldiers. If this is how they treat their own men, how do you think they treat the Iraqi people? This war has cost me everything — my health and my job.

“I used to work as a paramedic — now I have to do desk work. At this point in my career I should be earning £30,000, but I’m only on £17,000.

“We were sent to Iraq under the banner that we were there to protect our country from attack. We were told there were weapons of mass destruction. We were lied to.

“Saddam Hussein was a disgusting man, but the Iraqi people should have been allowed to remove him themselves. Tony Blair is not fit to sit in parliament, let alone lead the country.”

Military families are also stepping up their campaign to bring the troops home.

A letter to troops written by Rose Gentle, Susan Smith and Peter Brierley, who all lost sons in the Iraq war, was handed out at a military parade of the Staffordshire regiment on Friday of last week. They have just returned from a six month tour in Iraq.

The letter says, “Our sons died fighting in Iraq. When they went to war they believed they were going to defend the country and that we faced a threat from weapons of mass destruction.

“But Tony Blair lied. He knew that no such weapons existed and he sent our sons and nearly 100 other soldiers to their deaths on a falsehood.

“We support the troops. Had our sons died in a war that was to defend our country, you would not have heard from us. But we have a duty to speak out about the Iraq war.”

Helen Salmon took leaflets to the parade. She said, “We went along to give the letter to the soldiers. We were not sure what response we would get.

“But the soldiers were really positive. Susan’s son Phillip, who died in July, was a member of the regiment, so the soldiers knew who she was.

“Two men took a pile of the letters to take back to their barracks, and almost all the soldiers took the letter and read it. One of the soldiers thanked us for coming.”

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